milk bread buns
milk bread buns

Milk bread is one of my favorite types of bread. It’s uber soft and very lightly sweet, but not sweet enough to be considered a sweet or dessert bread. I happily make these milk bread buns to go with dinner. Milk bread sometimes is called Hokkaido or Shokupan, as it was developed in Japan.

The bread uses a technique called Tangzhong which makes a paste from water, milk and flour cooked briefly on the stove. This paste is added to the dough for two reasons: helps keep it extra soft, and helps the bread keep longer, as well as keeping it from drying out as quickly. I think milk bread is like little pieces of clouds or a bread version of cotton candy.

Honestly, I could probably eat these milk bread buns daily. This recipe makes the dough into buns, but you can very easily transform this into a loaf if you prefer (Japanese Milk Bread Loaf). I also created some dessert versions if you try these (or skip straight to) and want to have a sweeter version: Chocolate Malt Milk Buns or Milk Bread Chocolate Babka. One is a chocolate bun stuffed with chocolate and a chocolate glaze, and one is a standard milk bread swirled with dark chocolate filling.

Milk Bread Buns Key Ingredients

  • Tangzhong – This paste or roux adds a lot of the wonderful texture to the bread. It both helps keep the bread soft longer, and adds additional softness when it’s first baked. It’s a very easy and quick step, taking five minutes or less.
  • Milk – Obviously, milk bread uses milk. When you use milk in bread, the fat adds flavor and tenderness that water doesn’t quite have the same power as.
  • Baker’s Dry Milk – Now, you might wonder why bread that is made from milk needs milk powder. Baker’s dry milk is milk that has been heated to a very high temperature, killing the enzymes that weaken gluten. This adds the fats without compromising the gluten and really does make the loaf a lot softer. This bread IS very soft without it, but it’s one ingredient I personally don’t skip.
milk bread buns

Milk Bread Buns

5 from 1 vote
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Servings: 9 Buns



  • 15 g Bread Flour ~2 tbsp
  • 80 g Whole or 2% Milk ⅓ cup


  • 315 g AP or Bread Flour 2¾ cups
  • 25 g Granulated sugar 2 tbsp
  • 2 tsp Instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp Baker's Dry Milk
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 large Egg room temperature
  • 120 g Whole or 2% Milk ½ cup, warm
  • 42 g Unsalted butter 3 tbsp, softened


  • Prepare the tangzhong. Mix together, 15g flour, and 80g of milk in a small saucepan. Put the saucepan over medium-low heat and whisk constantly. When the whisk starts to leave trails where you can see the bottom of the pan, it is done. Transfer to a small bowl and allow to cool.
  • In the bowl of your stand mixer with your dough hook attached, add flour, baker's dry milk, yeast, salt, sugar, egg, milk, and tangzhong. Mix on low until a shaggy dough forms.
  • Stop the mixer, cover the bowl for 10 minutes and allow the dough to rest.
  • After 10 minutes, one tbsp at a time, add softened butter. Let butter fully incorporate into the dough until adding the next. For me it generally takes about 5-7 minutes to add all the butter and for it to be mostly incorporated.
  • Knead dough on low until dough is very smooth and no longer sticking to the sides. The dough will be tacky but also smooth and very elastic, passing the windowpane test. Kneading time beyond the butter stage is usually about 10-20 minutes.
  • When dough is ready, place in a lightly greased bowl and cover. Allow dough to rise for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size. If your kitchen is cool, Find a warm spot like on a sunny window sill, or in the oven (the oven should be OFF) with the oven light on.
  • Prepare a pan with parchment. Any metal 8-9" square or circular pan will work.
  • Punch down the dough and remove it from bowl. Divide dough into anywhere from 8-12 pieces. I usually use a 9 inch square cake pan to bake the buns and 9 pieces.
  • For rolls: Take each piece of dough, holding it in your palm and fold the sides into the center, creating a ball shape. Pinch the bottom pieces together. Then place the dough ball seam side down on the counter. Cup your hand over the dough and use a circular motion to further round out and create tension in the dough.
  • Place dough ball seam side down into the prepared pan. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough, spacing out evenly.
  • Cover the pan and allow dough to rise again for about another 45 minutes-1 hour, or until dough has puffed significantly.
  • About 20 minutes (more or less depending on your oven) into the second proof, preheat your oven to 350°F.
  • When buns are ready, place on the middle rack of your oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until buns are golden brown. A thermometer inserted into the bread should read 190°F.
  • Remove the bread from the pan to a wire cooling rack within 5-10 minutes. Let bread cool at least 30 min before eating. Store in an airtight container and best enjoyed within 24 hours but will keep for 3-4 days. Enjoy!
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5 from 1 vote (1 rating without comment)

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